Making mighty wines with mitey allies : Biobest & Jack Neal and Son pioneering IPM in Napa valley

Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, is California’s prime wine growing area. Some of the world’s finest wines are grown there. Sustainable crop management practices are part of the quality brand image of Napa valley’s top wineries. Integrated pest management and certified organic production are on the rise. Over the past few years, Biobest has been involved in the production of beneficial organisms (predatory mites and beneficial insects) for vineyards. Jack Neal & Son is a well-known provider of vineyard management services. Working with Biobest has helped them become a front-runner in the field of integrated and organic crop management.
Patrick Riggs is chief viticulturist and Pest Control Advisor (PCA) at Jack Neal & Son: “I have been working with Biobest for several years. They have provided me with an array of biocontrol agents and beneficial organisms to manage a host of different pests within the ultra-premium vineyards in the Napa Valley I am responsible for. In addition to their products, they have provided me with the expert advice that is essential to develop successful biocontrol strategies. Both have been essential to help our company successfully implement organic and biodynamic vineyard management systems.”

Kim Gallagher Horton, biological crop protection specialist for Biobest in California: “Jack Neal & Son are very serious about biocontrol. In close collaboration, we have devised a number of proven strategies against the most common pests in grapes. We are now able to effectively control and/or suppress mites, leafhoppers, and mealybugs with beneficial organisms. Success is based on sound knowledge about the behaviour of different pests and their natural enemies and on taking a proactive approach.”
For example, Californicus-System (N. californicus) and Fallacis-System (A. fallacis) are often released to prevent outbreaks of erineum and spider mites. When prevention is not possible, rapid action is key. Biobest is able to provide predatory mites very quickly, the company has an insectary in California. Regular scouting in the field allows to identify areas of pest activity and to treat those before they spread. For instance, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a high density predator in the ladybird beetle family, works great to wipe out hot spots of mealybug activity.
“Biocontrol is still a relatively young approach in vineyard management; hence, innovation is essential”, says Patrick Riggs, “We are still on a steep learning curve and benefit a lot from Biobest’s efforts to provide a steady stream of new strategies and beneficial organisms.”
Kim from Biobest concludes: “For over 10 years, I have been able to provide a well working solution to the returning occurrence of mites in the grapes. using Californicus and Galendromus predatory mites. Last year, we worked on tackling erineum mites, which are becoming more and more of a pest to vineyards in northern California, by releasing Fallacis-System (‘The Cool Mite’) early in the season. The release showed promise, and this year, we will release Fallacis-System in the early season plus a mid-season (June) release of Galendromus to keep the erineum mites in check when the temperatures increase. In addition, a late season (October) predatory mite release with Galendromus is part of the evolving strategy to catch the erineum mites as they are moving from the vines back into the buds for overwintering.”

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